Just like paper?
Does anybody remember Letraset ? Those catalogs with nothing other than typefaces. Not to say that is was new and exciting way back when but today it is still a very standard way of laying out a page for a catalog. Maybe taken for granted these days but it’s has an intrinsic feel, the feel of paper. It can only exist on this medium. But some are able to make it work online. How?
Designing for websites or online branding has it’s own look, feel, style, movement and sound. For some it’s a limited palet to communicate with for others it offers the promise of a never ending depth of imagery and vocabulary. It’s like designers all speak the same language but different dialects. Sometimes you can take the visual dialect of paper onto the screen. Imitating the visual language of print. Like a child would sing a foreign language song phonetically. Tom Muller has magically used the typographical look of a ‘paper’ catalog to convey that this hellomuller site is a just that, a catalog, no more no less. And it works, it’s not trying to do paper on the screen. The memory of a ‘paper’ catalog is translated to the online dialect and not it’s visual style. Although looking at this site trough a browser like Safari makes it very reminiscent of a ‘paper’ catalog. It’s still an ‘online’ catalog, though. No question.
Muller has pulled it off. Kudos. But…
Ah yes, there is a but. Take a closer look at the work listed in the catalog. It shows work of a high quality, can’t argue that. Hands down some of the best design work. Graphic design work as he would put it. Not really making the distinction between online and print like a one size fits all t-shirt. The ‘Moving Imagery’ works well online as does the work under ‘Static Imagery’. But the ‘Interactive’ lineup doesn’t seem to work as well the catalog site. Most of the work is styled like print work. This detracts from what they really are. Mainly websites. Minor exceptions like the Ashley Wood site maybe due to the fact that the site has required an online solution.
Now I’m not saying that Tom has botched it up, far from it. The work is of a high standard and lots of it to boot. But it does show that designers are still looking for ways to express themselves in a real online dialect. Even if it is phonetically. Print has been around for millennia and the WWW for just over a decade. There is a lot of ground still to be covered to have online design show us what it really is. The coming genrations of webdesigners will speak like true natives the ‘online’ dialect. They will amaze us, they will show us what we couldn’t see, using the dialect we find awkward to speak.